I began working as a sports and news photographer in 2006. During one of my first trips abroad—to Cuba in 2008—I discovered the world of street photography. Later, I traveled to South America for a long period of time, and that’s when I was first gripped by my passion for the genre. I had a lot of freedom during that period, and I spent almost every day walking around the cities I was visiting.

For me, street photography is, first of all, freedom. Yes, there are several simple rules you must follow—images should be shot in a public place, they shouldn’t be staged, etc.—but after that, you can make your own path. You have no idea what you’ll shoot, but every day you feel that you could shoot a masterpiece. You photography only for yourself. For me, street photography is like poetry to literature; jazz to music. I get high from the freedom.

Ultimately, the key to street photography is the decisive moment.

I sincerely believe that a good street photograph is a gift from the universe; for me, street images are direct proof of the existence of harmony in the world. The serendipitous moment where you are in the right place at the right time and hit the shutter to capture something striking and everlasting—that is one of the main pleasures in my life. I believe that every successful street photograph is a sum of luck, harmony, and the intuition of the photographer. Below, I have shared a few stories behind some of my favorite frames from the street.

Buenos Aires, Argentina, 2011 © Maria Plotnikova

Buenos Aires was love at first sight. The city has particularly beautiful light—once, traveling by bus, I saw a strange greenish glow. I kept it in mind and returned the next day, when I saw it again—but it disappeared quickly, and I wasn’t able to capture a good picture. For a long time, that light became my obsession—I was seeking it everywhere, on the streets and squares. I came back again and again and finally waited till I got my shot. It eventually became my ticket to the world of international street photography.

The photo was exhibited in many festivals dedicated to street photography. In 2013, it was shown as part of The Fence at Photoville in Brooklyn, New York. While there, a tourist from Buenos Aires noticed it in the show. He was so surprised to recognize his neighbor Lean in the picture! Returning to Argentina, the man met Lean and showed him my picture. Lean wrote me a message, and some time later we met in the same place where the photo had been taken. It turned out that Lean and his brother walk to work every day along that road.

Potosi, Bolivia, 2011 © Maria Plotnikova

In February 2011, I planned to shoot the carnival in Bolivia. Before the trip, I prepared thoroughly, studying carnival motifs in the works of European artists. I was especially impressed by The Fight Between Carnival and Lent painted by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. During the carnival in the city of Potosi, I found a place and moment dominated by chaotic movement much like Bruegel’s painting. It was at a crossroads in the city center. All I had to do was wait for the right moment. I stood there for about half an hour, pressed the button, and then—happy with my Bruegel-style discovery—went in search for a new spot and further stories.

Moscow, Russia, 2015 © Maria Plotnikova

More than anything in the world, I like the winter. I always look forward to the first snowfall in Moscow—for me, it’s a real holiday! On the morning of October 9, 2015, big snowflakes fell from the sky. I live near a large park in Moscow, and I immediately seized my camera and went to the forest. In the park there was not a single soul, but only the piercing cold and the soft sound of the snow. I made several hundred photos of snow-covered trees and leaves. Finally, chilled to the bone, I turned towards home. Then, suddenly, I noticed movement in the distance. I walked closer.

It seems that a man was carrying out some pagan ritual of unity with nature: he stood in the middle of a circle of fallen leaves reaching his hands to the sky. He noticed me at once but did not say a word. I was shooting for a few minutes and left him only after he began to hug a tree. We were absolutely alone in a huge deserted park, and both of us were doing our favorite things: I was shooting, and he was connecting with nature.

—Maria Plotnikova

We discovered Plotnikova’s work thanks to the excellent new publication, 100 Great Street Photographs, put together by veteran street photographer David Gibson. For fans of the genre, this is an invaluable reference that we highly recommend.